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Environmental Investigation and Cleanup - Saranac Lake

Project Name: Saranac Lake Gas Co. Inc.

Site Number: 516008

Saranac Lake Gas Co. Inc. Site and Operable Units
Location of Site and its Operable Units

New York State will be conducting cleanup activities at the Saranac Lake Gas Co Inc. site, Operable Unit (OU) 01, located at 24 Payeville Road in Saranac Lake, New York under the Superfund Site. Historic processes at the site produced coal tar and other waste products, which were released into the site soil, into Brandy Brook and migrated down to Pontiac Bay. Brandy Brook and Pontiac Bay were remediated in 2018.

Upcoming Cleanup Activities


Remedial activities are expected to begin in April 2021, to address contamination at the Saranac Lack Gas Co., Inc. site ("site"), located at Payeville Road, Saranac Lake, Essex County. The cleanup remedy chosen for the site includes:

  • Implementation of in-situ (i.e., in-place) solidification of approximately 37,000 cubic yards of soil within 1.37 acres of property.
  • Excavation and off-site disposal of soils that exceed the site-specific soil cleanup objectives ("SSSCOs") outside the property boundary or not deemed suitable for solidification.
  • Construction of a soil cover to protect the solidified soil from freeze-thaw conditions and in areas where the upper one foot of exposed surface soil will exceed the applicable restricted commercial use SCOs. Where the soil cover is required, it will be a minimum of one foot of clean soil, meeting the SCOs.
  • Recording an Environmental Easement to control future land use and to ensure implementation of the Site Management Plan.

Public Health and Safety

Community air and dust monitoring will be conducted during the cleanup activities. One monitor will be placed upwind and three will be placed downwind to monitor particulate levels and total volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the area. No visible dust should leave the work areas, and if air monitors detect dust or VOCs above action levels, work will be stopped until corrective measures are in place.

Odor control measures will also be put in place. Stockpiled contaminated soil will be covered, size of open work areas will be managed, and foaming agents will be used as necessary during material handling.

Temporary fencing will be placed around the work area to ensure public safety.
A portion of the former Adirondack Scenic Railroad will be used during remedial activities for egress from the Site and will be blocked off to public use during this time.


Site History

From the late 1800s to approximately the 1940s, the site was used for manufacturing lighting gas via coal gasification for the Village of Saranac Lake. The operations consisted of two gas holders, a purifier, and retort operations, along with coal storage areas and offices. No original structures exist on site today with the exception of a raised concrete storage pad and concrete foundation for one of the gas holders. The past activities at the site have resulted in contamination, both on and off-site.

A Typical Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) Facility
A Typical Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) Facility

Site Features

The Saranac Lake Gas Company site, a former MGP facility, is located in a residential setting on Payeville Road in the Village of Saranac Lake, Essex County. The site is about 4.5 acres and lies east of and adjacent to the former Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Residential properties border the site to the north and east, and a college recreational facility and playing field border to the south.

The main site features are a fenced storage yard, a small building and concrete gas holders. The manufactured gas plant was predominantly located within the fenced area. Other features include Brandy Brook, a wooded area, an access road on the northern portions of the property, woods and miscellaneous debris.

Gas holders left over from previous site operations.

Operable Unit OU01 - Gas holders from previous operations

Previous Investigations and Remediation Work

The site investigation performed in 2013 and 2014 detected coal tar and elevated levels of manufactured gas plant (MGP) wastes, including PAHs and BTEX compounds, above NYS standards, criteria, and guidance levels in the soil and groundwater at the former MGP site. Further investigation revealed coal tar and elevated levels of PAHs and BTEX compounds in the sediments of Brandy Brook and Pontiac Bay of Lake Flower.

Coal tar does not readily dissolve in water. Materials such as this are commonly referred to as non-aqueous phase liquids, or NAPLs. Although most coal tars are slightly denser than water, the difference in density is slight. Consequently, they can either float or sink when in contact with water. Specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of concern with coal tar are benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX). Specific semi-volatile organic compounds of concern with coal tar are numerous PAHs. Coal tars contain elevated levels of PAH compounds, often greater than 100,000 parts per million. Coal tars also exceed Soil Cleanup Objectives for BTEX by several orders of magnitude.

NAPL visible in a soil boring sample during pre-design investigations.

Cleanup activities of Brandy Brook (OU02) and Pontiac Bay (OU03) took place in 2018. DEC, through its contractor, removed an estimated 16,900 cubic yards of impacted sediment from Pontiac Bay and an estimated 5,800 cubic yards of impacted sediment and soil along Brandy Brook.

In Spring of 2019 final restoration of Brandy Brook, Pontiac Bay and several public and private properties were completed.

Shore of Pontiac Bay after being restored.

A portion of restored Brandy Brook A section of restored banks of Pontiac Bay

Additional pre-design investigations were conducted at the Saranac Lake Gas Co, Inc. parcel, (OU01) in 2019 and 2020 to delineate the horizontal and vertical extents of MGP materials in site soils, and to collect soil samples for solidification bench scale testing.

Conducting a test pit as part of pre-design investigations in 2019.

Public Meetings

DEC, New York State Department of Health (DOH), AMEC and Land Remediation held a public availability session on March 13, 2017 at the Harrietstown Hall to discuss the ongoing cleanup actions. Individual stations about various aspects of the cleanup and public health protection efforts were staffed by experts from DEC, DOH, AMEC and Land Remediation to provide the opportunity for interested residents and community members to have specific questions answered.

Information made available:

Interim Site Management Plan

An Interim Site Management Plan (ISMP) has been prepared for OU02 and OU03 and has been reviewed and approval by DEC and DOH. The approved ISMP includes:

  1. An Institutional and Engineering Control Plan that identifies all use restrictions and engineering controls for OU02 and OU03 and any remaining off-site impacts and details the steps and media-specific requirements necessary to ensure that institutional and/or engineering controls remain in place and effective.
  2. A Monitoring Plan to assess the performance and effectiveness of the remedy.

Document Access Information

Fact Sheets

The links below provide access to Fact Sheets prepared by DEC:

Work Plans and Other Documents

Additional Information

Additional information and documents about the site are available in hard copy for public review at the following locations:

Saranac Lake Free Library
100 Main Street
Saranac Lake, NY 12983
Call for hours: (518) 891-4190

Region 5 Office
1115 Route 86 - PO Box 296
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Call in advance: (518) 897-1200
Hours: Mon. to Fri. 8:30 AM to 4:45 PM

General Information About MGP Sites

This is a link to information about manufactured gas plant sites in New York State, and DEC's approach for their investigation and cleanup.

Project Management Contact Information

For project-related questions, contact the DEC Project Manager:
Brianna Scharf
Division of Environmental Remediation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233
(518) 402-5987

For site-related health questions, please contact the DOH Project Manager:
Wendy Kuehner, P.E. (PE)
Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation
Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Rm#1787
Albany, NY 12237
(518) 402-7860